Putting up your dukes for Australian wine

Peter Ranscombe joins wine writer Matthew Jukes for lunch at Edinburgh’s Wedgwood restaurant to puruse his list of the 100 best Australian wines.

I WOULDN’T mind cashing in Matthew Jukes’ air miles.

The Daily Mail newspaper’s wine columnist has compiled his “100 Best Australian Wines” list for 16 years and not only takes the accompanying roadshow around the UK but also now to China.

As an evangelist for Australian wine, he’s hard to beat, and his list is always entertaining as well as informing, with the reviews written in what’s almost a stream-of-conscious, littered with wee jokes and turns of phrase that raise a smile.

It was a treat to catch-up with him during the Edinburgh leg of his Australian wine roadshow when he teamed up with Diana Thompson of Wine Events Scotland – who is hosting her annual Fizz Feast on Saturday at The Edinburgh Academy – to host a lunch at Wedgwood.

To whet your whistle

A glass of Jansz Premium Rosé (£16.95, Fine Wine Company) got the proceedings underway, with its crisp acidity cutting through the oily salmon mousse on the canapes and its mandarin, raspberry and apricot flavours standing up to the fish.

Salmon in another form graced our plates for the starter, with Douglas fir-cured fish accompanied by beetroot, salsify and salmon roe.

Jukes selected a trio of whites from his list to pair with the dish and my favourite from the three was the 2017 Cherubino Chardonnay (£32.85, Winebuyers.com; 2018: £28.55, Exel Wines), which provided heavier butter and cream notes on the nose but crackled with freshness on the palate, full of lemon and grapefruit.

I love Larry Cherubino’s wines and his Ad Hoc Hen & Chicken Chardonnay clucked its way into Scottish Field’s Wine to Dine column earlier in the year.

Moooving on up

A main course of braised featherblade of beef, with smoked garlic mash and winter vegetables – Wedgwood at its very best, treating more unusual cuts of meat like kings – opened up another trio of matches.

Two of my favourite wineries – Yalumba and Henschke – went head-to-head with two very different wines.

The 2018 Yalumba Samuel’s Collection Bush Vine Grenache (£14.99, Australian Wines Online) is an old reliable choice, delivering light strawberry aromas on the nose but then packing a punch on the palate, with concentrated spun sugar, raspberry jam and fresh raspberry flavours and a rounded feeling in the mouth.

The 2013 Henschke Cyril Henschke Cabernet Sauvignon (£72.90, Exel Wines) is a different beast entirely; it’s at the other end of the spectrum in terms of price, but also with regards to flavour, centring around blackcurrant, cassis and mint, with a twist of redcurrant freshness.

Getting your just desserts

A cheek Scottish cheese board brought with it a red triplet, but it was the 2016 Penfolds RWT Bin 798 (£128 for 750ml, Hedonism Wines) Barossa Valley shiraz that sang – and not just because it was poured from a crowd-pleasing magnum.

It’s already starting to open up – showing blackberry, blackcurrant and vanilla notes – but clearly has ages to go before it hits its prime.

To finish, sticky toffee pudding with whisky butterscotch and vanilla ice cream, which yielded a classic Aussie “sticky” in the form of the Stanton & Killeen 12-year-old Classic Muscat (£20.99 for 375ml, Noel Young Wines) from Rutherglen, a style of wine made like no other, resting in barrels in the heat.

Butterscotch, toffee and vanilla were the order of the day, but it’s the freshness of Rutherglen muscat that continually surprises me, and highlights how Australia produces wines that can match any cuisine.

Read more about my adventures at https://www.scottishfield.co.uk/category/grapegrain/